Which Anxiety Treatment Is Most Effective
Medication and counseling can both be effective, either as standalone treatments or in combination with one another. Medication is not required for anxiety treatment, and many people find all the relief they need through therapy.
With this in mind, therapy is only as effective as the effort youre willing to put into it. You may have homework exercises to do, such as journaling. The work you do between therapy sessions is just as important, if not more important, than the work you do in therapy. Furthermore, youll need to open up to your therapist in order for him or her to provide appropriate suggestions. You can do this gradually as you feel more comfortable, but the more you share, the faster youll be able to take control of your anxiety.
Its not a matter of what anxiety treatment is most effective. Its a matter of what works for you! The specialists here at CNLD Testing & Therapy can help you find the best treatment path for your unique needs.
Questions To Ask Your Doctor
- How will the medication help my anxiety?
- What are the drugs common side effects?
- Are there any food and drinks I will need to avoid?
- How will this drug interact with my other prescriptions?
- How long will I have to take the anxiety medication?
- Will withdrawing from the medication be difficult?
- Will my anxiety return when I stop taking the medication?
Anna Glezer, M.D. is a Harvard-trained clinician with joint appointments in the reproductive psychiatry and OB/GYN departments at UCSF Medical Center. She is the founder of Mind Body Pregnancy.
Get more help
Medication Options What you should know when talking with your health care provider.
Benzodiazepines: Side Effects, Abuse Risk and Alternatives Article written for health care professionals on the benefits and risks of benzodiazepines.
Anxiety Worksheet to help you cope.
Anxiety Testing Provides A Clear Path For Anxiety Treatment
Anxiety testing provides information to build on with treatment. This process identifies what type of anxiety a person is facing, along with strengths and areas that need improvement. Here at CNLD Testing & Therapy, we focus on the strengths and use them to help a person work through their mental health struggles.
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Anxiety Drugs By Disorder
Every anxiety disorder responds differently to each medication. That means that your doctor may recommend a different medication depending on the type of anxiety. The following is a list of the most likely recommended medications for each condition, but always talk to your doctor and determine the one that is best for your symptoms.
You Toss And Turn Every Night
Its a vicious cycle: You cant fall asleep because youre anxiousand youre exhausted the next day, which makes you even more anxious.
For our ancestors, late-night anxiety was a survival technique. They had to sleep with one eye open to spot the tiger lurking beyond the campfire. But if youre worrying about money, a pounding heart wont help you pay the mortgage.
A great solution for run-of-the-mill insomnia: exercise. It promotes better sleep and also helps you calm down in the moment. In addition, deep breathing resets your anxiety response.
But if you dread darkness because you know there will be no rest for you, talk to your clinician.
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Which Treatment Is Most Suitable
When deciding whether to have psychological treatment or use medication, your personal preference and individual needs will play a big role. The right kind of psychological treatment can be very effective and help you to overcome your anxiety. But it takes a lot of motivation and determination, and you often have to wait a long time to get an appointment. Depending on a persons individual situation and the severity of their disorder, it might therefore be a good idea to start taking medication first. Sometimes it isn’t really possible to begin psychological therapy until medication has been used to at least partially relieve the symptoms.
Some people don’t want to start taking antidepressants because they are afraid they might end up becoming dependent on them. But unlike some painkillers, sedatives and sleeping pills antidepressants do not lead to dependency. Others see taking tablets to cope with their problems as a sign of weakness. But there’s no reason to feel ashamed of taking medication to treat a mental illness. Medicine can be helpful, and in some cases even necessary, when trying to overcome anxiety.
Regardless of what decision you make, there are medications and psychological treatments that can help you cope with generalized anxiety disorder and start living a normal life again.
Drug Interactions And Overdose
While benzodiazepines are relatively safe when taken only occasionally and in small doses, they can be dangerous and even deadly when combined with other central nervous system depressants. Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before combining medications.
Dont drink on benzodiazepines. When mixed with alcohol, benzodiazepines can lead to fatal overdose.
Dont mix with painkillers or sleeping pills. Taking benzodiazepines with prescription pain or sleeping pills can also lead to fatal overdose.
Antihistamines amplify their effects. Antihistaminesfound in many over-the-counter sleep, cold, and allergy medicinesare sedating on their own. Be cautious when mixing with benzodiazepines to avoid over-sedation.
Be cautious when combining with antidepressants. SSRIs such as Prozac and Zoloft can heighten benzodiazepine toxicity. You may need to adjust your dose accordingly.
Paradoxical effects of benzodiazepines
The benzodiazepines work because they slow down the nervous system. But sometimes, for reasons that arent well understood, they have the opposite effect. Paradoxical reactions are most common in children, the elderly, and people with developmental disabilities. They include:
- Increased anxiety, irritability, agitation, aggression, and rage
- Mania, impulsive behavior, and hallucinations
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Youre Perpetually Nervous And On Edge
If you feel edgy almost every day, its a good idea to seek help. Talk therapy will sometimes do the trick.
However, if you often feel like youre standing at the edge of a cliffheart racing, palms sweating, feeling like you might faintyou could be having panic attacks. In that case, bring that up with your clinician or find one who can explain what is happening to you.
Final Thoughts On How Anxiety Meds Make You Feel
It is common to feel nervous when deciding whether to take anti-anxiety medication. Doing your research, considering the risks and benefits, and speaking with your prescriber can help you decide whether medication is right for you. Finding the right medication and participating in therapy at the same time can help you manage your symptoms and gain control over your anxiety.
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Risks Of Anxiety Disorder Medications
Like any medication, those designated for anxiety disorders can carry some risks. There are a range of side effects, which, depending on the medication, can include dry mouth, diarrhea/constipation, lower appetite, sleep issues, nausea and heartburn. Some medications can also spark feelings of nervousness, irritability or, in severe cases, suicidal thoughts. Because these side effects can pose significant health problems, a doctor should be consulted if any of them appear.
Patients should also make sure their physicians know about anything they may be taking that could interfere with anxiety disorder medications. That includes over-the-counter drugs, herbal or vitamin supplements, other medications or even regular consumption of caffeine or alcohol.
Finally, anxiety disorder medications such as benzodiazepines carry the risk of abuse and addiction. Some medications can have a powerful effect on the brain and if they are taken frequently, a tolerance can develop. That means more of the medication needs to be taken to obtain the desired effect, and continued, accelerated use can lead to dependency. If the medication dependency interferes with a persons daily life and take the drug becomes the sole focus, it can indicate a possible addiction. People who abuse antidepressants and benzodiazepines over a long period of time may also suffer withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to stop using the medication.
You Work Hard But Get Nothing Done
You know that scattered feeling: Your thoughts are all over the place, you cant concentrate, and you find yourself wasting lots of time. Youve got things to do, but you cant settle down and get them done.
Thats because anxiety triggers your bodys stress response, which can affect the short-term learning and concentration areas of your brain. And difficulty concentrating can mean it takes you longer to do a task, whether its reading something or doing a simple math problem.
That extra time is one of the hidden costs of anxiety. If that rings a bell for you, let your clinician know.
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How Will Benzodiazepines Make Me Feel
Benzodiazepines and other medications for short-term anxiety can give you fast relief from your anxiety.3 You may experience feelings of calm minutes after taking these medications. While these medications can provide significant benefits, however, they also come with risks.
Benzos can cause side effects like nausea, confusion, and headaches. Taking larger doses can cause more intense side effects like severe drowsiness, disorientation, and memory impairment. Consuming large amounts of benzos can even lead to an overdose, especially if they are mixed with alcohol or opioids.
Are There Differences Among Anxiety Medications
Anxiety medications in the same drug class work in a similar way and there are similarities between classes of anxiety medications.
- SSRIs affect brain serotonin levels. They are the first line for treating most types of anxiety.
- Other antidepressants, including tricyclics and monoamine oxidase inhibitors , that also act on brain serotonin and norepinephrine levels have more limited use because of their side effects and drug interactions.
The anxiolytic drugs, which specifically target these disorders, work in different ways and have specific treatment applications.
- Benzodiazepines act on the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid .
- Buspirone enhances the activity of serotonin.
- The antihistamine hydroxyzine , has a sedative effect by blocking certain receptors in the brain.
Medications normally used to treat high blood pressure also have specific off-label uses for treating panic disorders.
- The beta-blockers propranolol and atenolol have become a popular remedy for performance anxiety, also known as stage fright. They may also have some use in PTSD.
- The alpha-blocker prazosin eases nightmares from PTSD.
- Other alpha-blockers, such as clonidine and guanfacine , may also be useful for treating PTSD.
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The Role Of Medication In Anxiety Treatment
When youre overwhelmed by heart-pounding panic, paralyzed by fear, or exhausted from yet another sleepless night spent worrying, youll do just about anything to get relief. And theres no question that when anxiety is disabling, medication may help. But are drugs always the best answer?
Many different types of medications are used in the treatment of anxiety disorders, including traditional anti-anxiety drugs such as benzodiazepines and newer options like SSRI antidepressants . These drugs can provide temporary relief, but they also come with side effects and safety concernssome significant.
They are also not a cure. In fact, there are many questions about their long-term effectiveness. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, benzodiazepines lose their therapeutic anti-anxiety effect after 4 to 6 months of regular use. And a recent analysis reported in JAMA Psychiatry found that the effectiveness of SSRIs in treating anxiety has been overestimated, and in some cases is no better than placebo.
Whats more, it can be very difficult to get off anxiety medications without difficult withdrawals, including rebound anxiety that can be worse than your original problem.
Does Dbt For Anxiety Really Work
There are many different types of treatments for anxiety. And, new treatments for anxiety are developed every year. But, one type of treatment for anxiety thats tried and true for many individuals who are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder is DBT. DBT for anxiety is a type of behavioral therapy that allows individuals living with anxiety disorders to better manage symptoms and adjust behaviors and mindsets in order to gain more control of anxiety. So, what is DBT for anxiety and what can a person expect from using this type of therapy for anxiety?
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Cannabidiol & Medical Marijuana
Lets address the skeptics here first, but also look at the big picture in an unbiased way. We clearly need more research on this topic. Marijuana can clearly be addictive for some. Our society has had a puritanical basis against marijauna research in the past. Its clearly safer on average than alcohol and benzos in terms of overdose and fatality. Typically, overdose on these products has not ever been described as fatal. Only very recently has a coroner said there may have been a fatal overdose on marijuana. Even if this is not an accurate report, with the legalization of marijuana and development of higher potency strains, it would not surprise me that this does occur in time. But for now, in the big picture, the #1 drug that kills in our society is nicotine, and alcohol is #2.
The mechanism of action here concerns the endocannabinoid system in the human body. Like the other classes of medicines discussed, the exact mechanism is not completely understood. This can have various different effects including reducing seizures, anxiety, and gastrointestinal symptoms. The first ever CBD product was approved last year for severe seizure disorders.
I tend to refer my patients to someone who specializes in medical marijuana and CBD when other classes of medications like antidepressants have failed them.
How Do I Know If I Have Generalized Anxiety Disorder
The first step is to rule out the possibility that your symptoms are being caused by a medical condition that is not psychiatric. Among the conditions that produce symptoms similar to those of anxiety are hyperthyroidism or other endocrine problems, too much or too little calcium, low blood sugar, and certain heart problems. Certain medicines also can sometimes cause anxiety. A thorough evaluation by your health care provider will determine if any of these conditions are the cause of your symptoms.
If no other medical culprit can be found and the symptoms seem out of proportion to any situation you are facing, you may be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
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Finding The Right Medication And Dosage
If your therapist and/or psychiatrist determine that medication is a good option for you, the psychiatrist will then work out which medication and dosage best addresses your needs. For example, benzodiazepines are reactive medications. They are designed for short-term relief, like stopping a panic attack. Long-term medications, such as SSRIs are preventative. They are designed to be taken every day, and they slowly build up in your system. The effect is less intense initially, but they provide overall mood stabilization.
Because there are so many variations, your psychiatrist will need to assess all the factors at hand. This will include your medical history and other medications you may be on. From there, he or she can determine which anti-anxiety medicine is right for you. The dosage or type of medication may need to be adjusted over time, depending on your experiences.
Questions To Ask Your Health Team About How Anxiety Medication Makes You Feel
Before you start taking medication for your anxiety, you will most likely have questions. It is important to ask your provider about possible side effects, contraindications, and how to handle negative reactions. Consider writing down your questions in advance and bringing them with you to your appointment.
Questions to ask your care team about how antidepressants anxiety meds make you feel include:
If you experience suicidal thoughts, contact your doctor, psychiatrist, or therapist right away. If you feel like you want to act on your thoughts, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 immediately.
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What Are A Few Key Things I Need To Know About Anxiety Medications
With so many treatment options available for anxiety, its important to understand the differences between medications. Its also helpful to know what to expect when you first start taking them.
Here, well discuss nine things you should know about anxiety medications. This discussion focuses on SSRIs, SNRIs, and benzodiazepines. Buspirone, hydroxyzine, and propranolol are discussed in separate GoodRx articles.
Concerns & Dangers Of Anxiety Medication
While benzodiazepines can be highly effective at reducing anxiety and panic, they also pose serious risks.3 When taken over time, you can become dependent on these medications, where your body relies on the medication to function effectively.13 This can cause an increased tolerance, where you feel like you need more of the medication to feel the desired effects.
You might also experience withdrawal symptoms if you try to quit cold turkey or cut back. Withdrawal symptoms can include increased anxiety, difficulty sleeping, cravings, hallucinations, and seizures. Benzo withdrawal can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening. Therefore, you should always speak with your healthcare provider before stopping these medications or reducing your dose.
Benzos can also cause psychological dependence and addiction.13 If youre addicted, you may put benzos before other important things in your life, like your family and work. You might find yourself taking more than youd like and have a hard time controlling your use. If this is the case, you might need to get professional treatment to quit safely.
To use benzos safely, be sure to meet with your healthcare provider regularly, take your medications exactly as prescribed, and only use benzos for short periods of time.
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